Brown & Dancers give lively weekend performance
It was no clap of politeness that erupted in Runnals Theater when the Camille A. Brown & Dancers performance ended last Friday night. It was a whooping, hollering, soul clap to the beat of the music. On the center of the stage, the dancers formed a semi-circle and took turns solo dancing as their company, and the audience, cat-called and cheered them on. Through the hour-long five-piece performance, the dancers had slowly funneled their energy and passion into the audience. By the time the dancers were through, many of the audience members were bobbing their heads and swaying their hips as they rose to give the Company a standing ovation.
After an introduction listing their accolades, the Camille A. Brown & Dancers Company had a lot to live up to. Their first dance, “City of Rain,” was a serene piece that didn’t quite pack the punch necessary to open the show. The dancers wore outfits of light blue and brown complementing the cloud scene projection behind them. Their fluid, sweeping gestures offset the sense of escalating chaos that was prompted by the grating nature of the music selection—an original composition by Jonathan Melville Pratt. As the piece ended, audience members seemed unconvinced.
Though the performance started out slow, the next piece, “The Evolution of a Secured Feminine,” piqued the audience’s attention. It was a solo piece performed by Camille Brown that opened with one single circle of light beaming in the center of the stage. She wore a brown costume, which resembled a man’s suit but had the revealing cut of a feminine garment. The music selection incorporated audience sounds like talking and clapping along to the bluesy beat, and Camille played with the idea of “performance” by putting on a show for the simulated audience. In this “show,” Camille toyed with the idea of gender. She juxtaposed stereotypically coy feminine gestures with stereotypically masculine body language and props. As the piece closed, Camille removed the hat that she had worn pulled over her eyes as the music lyric said, “I saw you.” The fluidity with which Brown navigated stereotypical gender boundaries was quite compelling.
It was during the third piece, “Girls Verse 1,” that the energy truly amplified inside the theater. This was a high-energy piece performed by a group of females to a mix of several different songs with a club-music beat. It was the most sensual piece of the night, incorporating seductive hip rolling with sassy, showy facials and green lighting. As this piece ended, one audience member whispered to another, “This just keeps getting better.”
The pieces that followed the intermission were increasingly more fun and comical. The “Groove to Nobody’s Business” recaptured the aura of an urban street corner. The dancers were clad in normal street clothes like a leather jacket, a button-up shirt and tie, ripped jeans and heels. Four chairs were set up mid-stage to represent a street-side bench. The dance unfolded as a theatrical scene where characters strut back and forth, creating a sense of the flow of human traffic in the city. The audience was bursting out in laughter as the characters scolded each other for invading personal space.
The Company continued the comedy with “Been There, Done That,” a couples’ dance that dramatized the struggles of dancing with a partner. The dancers incorporated humor throughout the piece as they fought with each other for the glory of the stage. The verbal additions in this piece were spot on with lines like “And with that, it’s time for my water break.” The audience could hardly contain their laughter.
The final piece of the night was a tribute to the people of New Orleans. It was a wildly inspirational piece titled “New Second Line,” in which the whole company donned black costumes, which stood out in stark contrast to the red backdrop. The dancers moved laterally across the stage to music that evoked the spirit of New Orleans with trumpet blasts and bustling swank. There was an underlying rhythm and sense of persevering teamwork that was sustained throughout the piece, a celebration of the character of New Orleanians.
The Company did a remarkable job summoning a simultaneously comic and inspiring attitude in their audience. This was a group of dancers with spunk and visible passion for their craft, whose energy was positively contagious.